A Language in Still Water

WRITTEN BY YEJIN SUH

There is a language of two arms dancing in tandem. There is a language
of our mouths parting in frostbitten rings, concentric circles rippling

peace. There is a language of peace and a language of romance. You can
speak neither or both and a language is only understandable to some, else

the world might hear. There is a language of the sweat off our backs
dripping in trails, entrails of insides strewn across floors, because we speak

in the pain. There is a language for me, not really for you, a language I listen to
when it speaks back to me. For you’ve never straddled the cosmic belt

between a language to speak and one to hear, a language through which
I’ve lost centuries. My mother says she pities me in the motherland

because they wouldn’t take me as their own: I belong not to the mother tongue
but to the spangled banners. There is a language noisy sounding, brawling,

reminiscent of German that is the language I have learned like a roughened
lover. I’ve brushed with my thumbs where his hips slope to thigh, and the

nook between jaw and collar. He slammed my head against the wall
and embraced me in a lock and key I knew I might never fit again (The

Germans have a word   dasein   for the paradox of   being   like my mere
state a pull between two hands that stretch). She says they wouldn’t

take me as their own and neither would the Americans. The children of
immigrants rise a new tsunami and these children know the feeling of

swallowing a tide of shame at their mothers’ broken English. These
children know to act the reluctant mediator, because when a mother

speaks broken English and the child knows it like a lover the mother
becomes fragments and child becomes same, like switching

bodies except both are devoid of crucial parts like vessels without
blood and brain. These children want to hear the pin-drop

in a cave that roars stillness to hear the echo of an echo. To look
around, unmoving, in a city swarm, to seize a semblance of knowing, to

say I belong here, with you, with you all, not anywhere else, here,
where any link that snaps homogeneity is an outsider, and I am not. To say,

I belong here, is a travesty. To the shade of your skin or the slant of my
eyes. I wonder what it would be like to write a poem such as this, a long

and lengthy poem, of curious words and stacked phrases, a poem of worlds
and small rivers, to show it to my mother to know she can understand every word

and nothing less. I wouldn’t know. Not in this lifetime. Maybe in another,
we’ll dismantle the walls that encircle us. There is a language of demolition, too.

Yejin Suh is a Korean-American student in New Jersey. She has been recognized by the Scholastic Awards. Her work appears in Crashtest Magazine, The Eunoia Review, and Just Poetry.

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